Epizootic Catarrhal Enteritis
ECE (E =
Rapid spread throughout naive ferret, C =
Containing Mucous E =
Intestinal inflammation) a coronavirus, also known as "Green
Slime" and "Green Poop", attacks
the stomach and intestinal lining of the ferret as well
as interferes and starves the animal of the necessary fluid
and nutrient absorption needed. ECE is highly contagious
and chances are all your ferrets will become ill at varying
degrees (it is possible that some ferrets are carriers
of this disease and show no symptoms). Currently there
is no prevention or vaccine for this highly contagious
coronavirus, though once your ferret contracts the disease,
they usually do not get it again. The severity of this
disease generally increases with the age of the ferret.
Infection typically occurs from direct contact
of infected animals or human contact with infected animal.
Recovered ferrets can shed the virus in stools for 6+ months
after initial infection. You can confirm if the virus is
shedding by using a fecal PCR test to identify the marker
or have an intestinal biopsy done (by Michigan State University).
Actual course of disease tends to run 1 - 3 weeks, though
signs (low body weight, weakness, poorly formed stools)
can last months.
Symptoms of ECE includes neon colored green
watery diarrhea with an abundant amount of mucous containing
a very foul fish odor. Within a few days, the diarrhea
might stop but your ferret can begin to lose weight, due
to lack of eating and in addition become dehydrated. This
is caused by stomach acid attacking their digestive tract
which leads to ulcers in the stomach, throat and/or mouth.
This virus can potentially kill your ferret, which is why
it is imperative that you be alert to all of their habits
and any changes. Of the number of ferrets that are properly
treated and looked after, only 1-2% result in death. Providing
proper supportive care is vital to your ferrets recovery.
Immediate aggressive treatment is needed as a ferret can
go from healthy to critically dehydrated and ill within
8 hours, hydration is key. There are no medicines to attack
the virus, only the symptoms.
When your ferret begins to stop eating and/or drinking
on its own it is vital that you prepare and feed them a
bland diet of duck
soup or Gerber's chicken stage 2 baby food. It is important
at this stage to also add pedialyte to their water. The
easiest way to tell if your ferret is dehydrated is by
pinching the scruff of their neck, under normal conditions
the skin will snap back, if they are dehydrated, the skin
tends to stick together. If dehydrated, often the ferret
will need to be administered sub-q
fluids. An oral antibiotic (Amoxicillin) will usually
be prescribed to prevent secondary bacterial infections
As the virus can be shed for up to 6 months
following infection, and can be transmitted on clothes,
shoes, ferret-to-ferret contact, etc,. You should always
wash your hands and clothing between handling other ferrets.
Affected animals will need to be kept isolated preferable
in other rooms and you should not share any cage contents
among ferrets. If you suspect ECE in your ferret, you should
get them to the veterinarian immediately, as immediate
treatment will be necessary.